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we prepared to deny hope to the vicious ? Crime is an offence against human enactments, but are not vice and crime equally opposed to Divine law ?
The vicious man, perhaps, in the antecedents and circumstances of his life, has been constantly surrounded by better influences, and yet has been proof against them. The criminal, it may be, has never had a fair chance of being other than what he is : who shall say he will hold back when the opportunity is afforded? But granted for a moment that the door is open to the vicious alone, the difficulty of definition immediately presents itself. Vice and crime are sometimes convertible terms. An Act of Parliament, such as that for the protection of women, has made the fashionable vice of one generation a crime in the next.
Surely then there can be in theory no primâ facie reason for denying the possibility of reformation to the adult criminal ; and it will be our business to inquire whether the efforts made of late years in this direction have, in practice, been wholly ineffectual. In early ages, prisons were chiefly instruments of vengeance and torture, in which captives of war and political opponents shared the fate of robbers and assassins. Even in far later times, debtors and offenders of every grade were herded together; and jails, instead of being preventives, were the schools and nurseries of crime, into which people might be forced by misfortune, to emerge hopelessly corrupt and abandoned. In those days, the more desperate criminals, though every hand was raised and every heart steeled against them, yet enjoyed a certain prestige which was not without its attractions. Pirates and highwaymen, like the anotai of ancient, and the klephts of modern Greece, looked upon their career less as a crime than as a dangerous game played against society, to the loss of which they gloried in submitting with equanimity.
It is cheering, amid this night of cruelty and folly, to see one ray of light in the true direction, and that from a quarter in which we should have scarcely expected it. Just a century ago, some years before Howard commenced his labours, Goldsmith,
in his Vicar of Wakefield, had anticipated the principles of the modern system, by making the imprisoned vicar institute fines for the punishment of immorality, and rewards for peculiar industry, and by venturing to suggest, “ that creatures, whose souls are held as dross, only wanted the hand of a refiner; that few minds are so base as that perseverance cannot amend." Yet, long afterwards, prisons continued to be profitable to the jailer alone. Places of amusement to the utterly vicious, they were terrible only to the better disposed; who were possibly the majority, yet who, as in schools and even larger communities, yielded to the violence of a turbulent minority, claiming to be the public opinion of their miserable world. Transportation mitigated and perpetuated this state of things, till at length a more enlightened policy, roused by the difficulty of getting rid of criminals, suggested a means of keeping people out of prison, instead of maintaining them in it; and a system of greater strictness and better classification replaced the no system which had hitherto prevailed.
The crank, the tread-wheel, the solitary cell, and all the appliances for crushing men's souls and bodies, made the jail no longer a place of amusement, yet nevertheless did not diminish crime. In spite of all the objections to the present method as too indulgent, men more frequently returned to prison under the system of mere severity. And no wonder ; they were driven to despair—and despair does not mend the character ; it frequently seems, on the contrary, to bring out its worst points, as the accounts of plagues and shipwrecks abundantly prove. Again the means adopted were too entirely artificial. Men were treated not as rational beings, but as it were inorganic matter; hence nothing but a mechanical impression was made upon them. Train a living branch in any direction, it will eventually stiffen in it; but the steel spring flies back whenever the pressure upon it is removed. “Naturam expellas furcâ tamen usque recurret.” Again the mistake was made of supposing good prison characters to be necessarily good characters; whereas the fact was generally the reverse. The utter reprobate being restrained by no principle from counterfeiting repentance, there were no bounds to his hypocrisy. The very tokens as it was supposed of good, proved his worthlessness ; and on his release, which was too often accelerated by pretended amendment, he would naturally compensate himself for long restraint, by returning with avidity to a more congenial life. Others, again, who had conformed to the regulations from no unworthy motives, but chiefly perhaps from a submissive spirit, left the prison as it were with no character at all. Their minds were a blank. They were as unfit to mix again with the world as nuns escaped from a convent, and generally relapsed into crime, because powerless to resist the temptation which quickly presented itself. After a careful analysis of this system, we are driven to the conclusion that it would be scarcely possible for perverse ingenuity to have invented any thing less calculated to attain the object in view. Entire surrender of will was expected to teach self-control and decision of character! Enforced idleness was intended as a preparation for active work; and the total annihilation of individuality was supposed to fit a man for the distinct part assigned to him in the great drama of life !
This failure of mere severity suggested to many benevolent men the possibility of attaining the desired object by means of a milder treatment. The acknowledged success of their experiment, and the efficacy, and at the same time the inadequacy, of voluntary institutions for this purpose, naturally induced the authorities of the country to adopt the same principle, and led gradually to the present more merciful system, which though still in its infancy has already justified by its results the anticipations of its promoters. “I have never heard of any one case," says Mr. Barwick Baker, writing of voluntary reformatories, “ in which an adult Reformatory has been tried, and has not succeeded beyond all reasonable hopes of its founders.”* Our own belief is, that when prisons and workhouses have become what they ought to be, the voluntary institutions which have been the means of directing public attention to these subjects,
* Transactions, 1858, page 405.
will have well nigh done their work, and if not altogether superseded, will be confined to exceptional cases, instead of as at present, performing the greater portion of the preventive and reformatory operations of the country.
Let us however do justice to the men who struggled for years against public indifference and incredulity, while striking out the new path which has now become only too fashionable. Fault indeed has been found with them, that they look upon criminals as interesting experiments, and are too much inclined to indulge those who deserve punishment. But this proves only that their heart is in their work; few can devote themselves entirely to one object without other feelings towards it than those which animate the world at large. Physicians and surgeons regard terrible wounds and diseases in a very different light to those who suffer from their effects.
But even among these voluntary workers there now prevails a far more healthy tone, and the various papers read at Birmingham and Liverpool, in the Punishment and Reformation Department of the Social Science Association, prove that the objections to Reformatories, on the score of indulgence, are more conjectural than well founded, and that the managers of the greater number, as well as the inspectors who visit them, are fully aware that crime is not only a misfortune, but a sin, which must be expiated by suffering. The tendency of this country, as of all others where popular influences predominate, is to proceed from one extreme to another, till the practical common-sense of the nation settles down eventually in the middle course. The pendulum swings from side to side, but the clock goes on. It is plain, however, that the action of individuals upon a population like that of England can only be experimental. The machinery of the State is necessary to deal with the enormous mass, and it is no slight or doubtful proof of the soundness of a principle, that it has been approved and adopted by the executive of the country, a body proverbially and most properly incredulous, and slow to break through long-established routine.
Another very satisfactory evidence that the new system has passed out of the region of enthusiasm into that of commonsense and cool judgment, is found in the moderate language of the reports. The pious speeches and touching writings of prisoners are no longer quoted as a proof of reformation, nor indeed do the managers of Reformatories, or the authorities of prisons, pretend to bring about the change of heart which is not in the power of man, though too often presumed with an overweening and fatally mistaken confidence.
“I confess," says Mr. Barwick Baker, one of the earliest and most successful of the new school-'I confess that I never like to apply the term reformed to any who leave our institutions. If it means that they are so far reformed as to be safe from relapse, it would be absurd for me to state more of them than I can of myself.”—(Transactions 1857, p. 271.)
“ The only reformation, perhaps," says the Rev. J. Kingsmill, Chaplain of Pentonville, "of persons under correction for offences against the laws, expected by the State or society at large, is simply such a change as that they shall cease to be criminal, and addict themselves to honest, quiet, and orderly pursuits.”—(English Reports, p. 28.)
“If,” says Mr. Organ, “ we can turn out a man from prison, , whose character is so changed, that instead of providing for his wants by plunder, he settles down and earns his bread by honest labour, that man, I hold, is reformed, at least so far as the public have any right to inquire.”—(Irish Reports, p. 129.)
“I have long felt," writes the Rev. Sydney Turner, " that the individual reformation of the offender is a matter rather of individual religious charity than of social duty. The statesman and the community are most concerned with the effects of Reformatories on the general amount of crime, in reference to the protection of the property of society at large.”—(Report, p. 12.)
This surely is an object which will approve itself to every man who has any thing to lose. It must not however be supposed that the Reformatory effort stops here. The chaplains of jails, and the devoted workers in Reformatory institutions, have a higher aim on which we do not propose to dwell, though